Christopher Cantwell, one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville as part of the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in August, is facing up to 20 years in prison for allegedly attacking protesters with mace. But now he's trying to turn the tables on his accusers, claiming they used mace on themselves as part of an antifa plot to “maliciously punish, discredit, vex, and harass him.”
The complaint was filed Thursday by Cantwell’s lawyer Elmer Woodward. Cantwell’s complaint names two people who testified in court against him — Emily Gorcenski and Kristopher Goad — claiming they were part of a “cluster” of antifa who attempted to spray him with mace.
The complaint describes Cantwell and his allies as “The Monumentals” who were simply protecting public property and exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Antifa was also enjoying rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia,” the document states. “As is their pattern and practice, antifa attacked the Monumentals. Two antifa subsequently swore out false and fraudulent criminal warrants against plaintiff, a Monumental slated to speak at the Aug. 12 rally.”
Cantwell figured prominently in a VICE News documentary about the events in Charlottesville, and in an interview he showed off an arsenal of weapons and expressed racist views. He referred to the black victims of police shootings as “savages” and criticized Ivanka Trump for marrying Jared Kushner, who is Jewish. “We’re not nonviolent,” he said. “We’ll fucking kill these people if we have to.”
The complaint acknowledges that Cantwell used pepper spray to defend himself, but argued that he did not hit Gorcenski and Goad, contrary to what they testified in court. Cantwell is seeking more than $107,000 in damages from each defendant, as well as punitive damages in the amount of $350,000 from each defendant.
The lawsuit is the latest turn in the legal aftermath of Charlottesville, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched ostensibly in support of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the campus of the University of Virginia. The march devolved into a violent clash that left one protester dead after an avowed neo-Nazi drove a speeding car into a crowd.
Cantwell posted tearful video of himself after Charlottesville police issued a warrant for his arrest, which in turn earned him the nickname “The Crying Nazi.”
Cantwell was ultimately charged with one count of felony use of tear gas by a Charlottesville Grand Jury. He is currently out on bond but faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted.
His pretrial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31 and his trial is slated for Feb. 12.
"I'm going to beat this case, sue everyone involved, and use the money to fund the alt-right," Cantwell said, in an interview. "Goad and Gorcenski lied, and their dishonesty will now advance my goals."
Both Gorcenski and Goad testified as government witnesses in earlier proceedings against Cantwell, alleging he sprayed them with mace during a torch-lit white supremacist march that took place the night before the Unite the Right rally.
In his lawsuit, Cantwell refers to Gorcenski, a transgender documentarian from Charlottesville, by male pronouns and her former male name, and describes her as a “media relations assistant to antifa.” When she was cross-examined during Cantwell’s trial, Gorenski said that she is not part of antifa and went to the University of Virginia’s campus on Aug. 11 to film the rally, not participate in the protest.
Cantwell describes Goad, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, as a “violent political activist, supporter, and adherent of antifa.” “Goad has a disco mustache, had longish hair and wore a blue jean jacket,” the complaint adds.
The complaint also refers to a few other unnamed individuals, including “Beanyman,” “a short white male with a beard,” and “Undersleeves,” someone who was wearing “an orange long-sleeved shirt under a short-sleeved blue t-shirt.”
CORRECTION Jan. 3, 10:58 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misstated the amount that Cantwell is seeking in damages. He is seeking damages in excess of $107,000 from each defendant, and punitive damages in the amount of $350,000 from each defendant